Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 19 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a genius

It was an animal I didn't even know! A bird in the middle of the road...A goose. It was squawking and trying to move. It was clearly distressed, and hurt; and there were four other geese on the other side of the road, watching, and they were squawking, too. Why do we get so angry when someone or something dies? It was an anonymous goose. To my dismay, I bawled my eyes out and then got pissed! I didn't even know the animal, yet I was sad and angry!

A little background:
In my city, geese are more prevalent than people around one small lake right in the middle of town. Because of a hydro-electric plant, I think, the lake rarely freezes during the winter. So this is apparently as far south as some Canadian Geese ever get. Up until very recently, the city prided itself on its large goose population. In the park, there were even machines where a quarter bought you a bunch of corn, which the geese devoured practically out of your hand. Within the last few years, however, the novelty wore off, as the goose population and the goose poop swelled! Locals are more likely to think of them as obnoxious, overgrown rats than birds. They aren't friendly, not necessarily beautiful, and they wander the streets--cars be damned--as if they have permanent right-of-way.

I was on my way home to ready for my parents' visit. My day was done. It was beautiful and warm. Ironically, I had just taken a pleasant moment to view a family of swimming geese before rounding the corner to the horror in the middle of the road. Horror... I quickly pulled my car over and dialed 911. I didn't know what else to do. There were cars whizzing by in both directions, some with stricken faces, others oblivious to the suffering before them.

I ran toward the goose as I talked with 911, stopping momentarily to retrieve a towel from my trunk. They would send someone, "to put it out of its misery," but I couldn't stand there and watch. I spoke gently as I picked it up. Having just laid its head on the pavement, apparently for the last time, the goose offered no resistance. I carried it to the shade of a nearby tree where all was suddenly quiet and still--both my goose and the four geese, who now turned and walked silently away. It may have died in my hands. I don't know. I knelt there with it for several moments, stroking its back, and telling it everything would be okay.

Feeling self-conscious, I got up and stood nearby to wait. Tears welled. I felt dumb.

Finally, the city animal control arrived. She seemed nice enough when I pointed her toward the goose, but oh, how I wish I had turned away. Rather than the gentle scoop I naively expected, she yanked it up by its neck and tossed the still-warm soul into her truck.

I cried. I'm crying now.

I got angry. I'm angry now.

I had no idea what happened to the goose, but I was angry at the "impatient" person who struck it. I was angry that person didn't bother to stop. Did the driver hit the goose on purpose? Probably not. I know.

I felt bad for the geese who apparently made it across. Witnesses to the suffering...perhaps "family" of the deceased? And I felt silly for feeling bad.

I got angry at the inhumanity of the city worker. She knew I was watching. She knew I was the one who had carried the victim to its resting spot. And what about the other residents who were driving, running, biking and strolling by? Did she have to yank it by its neck? It had barely just died!
And I got angry for being angry, for crying like a "fool" over I bird I didn't even know. Perhaps anger is more comfortable than sad. I don't know.

It bothers me to be so traumatized by this experience, and I almost wish I hadn't stopped. But I did. Feeling so traumatized worries me, but I guess I don't need to figure my feelings out. I want to, but I guess I just need to let them be.

I'm sad and angry about a goose. I'm sad and angry about the needless suffering of a goose. Suffering...perhaps I'm sad and angry about suffering...and pain.
I hate suffering and pain.
I especially hate to witness suffering and pain.
I wish I hadn't. But I did. And now, I just have to feel it.
I guess.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

This is Borderline Personality Disorder

Dear Readers,
What you are about to see is the most comprehensive and compassionate description of Borderline Personality Disorder I have ever seen. Thanks to Clinically Clueless for finding this and posting it on her blog, which is where I first viewed it. I also send heartfelt thanks to the creator, aperfectingangel on YouTube. Thank you, aperfectingangel. This is truly beautiful.

If you know anyone touched by, confused by, or suffering from BPD, send them this video link. I bet they'll thank you for it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Program of Action

AA is often referred to as a "program of action." In fact, I just finished a post about this topic over at The Second Road. Recovery from alcoholism definitely requires action. Putting down the drink wasn't enough for me, I needed to recover physically, emotionally and spiritually. I needed to learn a new way to live. In this way, I think recovery from alcoholism and recovery from mental illness are very similar. My recovery from mental illness also requires ongoing action.

Without taking action to heal, I cannot hope to recover physically, emotionally or spiritually from devastating depression. Sitting around waiting for health to happen is unrealistic, yet don't some of us expect that? I did. After all, my illness came on without warning or explanation, why shouldn't I expect it to go away similarly? I'm sure that's what I thought during the early years of my illness. I didn't take action.

I was so wrapped up in the unfairness of my lot, I couldn't move forward. I felt like shit. I had no energy. I lost my spouse, my job, my house--all because of this illness. I wanted to die, and all I could do was focus on wanting to die. The more I focused on my pain, the more painful my life got.

This constant misery focus is a trap which I think may be unique to mental illness. We, of the non-Hallmark illnesses, must face constant stigma, shame and discrimination not encountered by those with hotdish-friendly diseases. (Huh, you say? When your depression symptoms were most debilitating, did the church ladies bring you a casserole and jello? I didn't think so.) Our experience, our suffering is not only misunderstood by friends and relatives, it is downright invalidated. Hence, we repeat and reiterate how badly we feel, how much life hurts, in hopes that someone will get it. Worse yet, I internalized the invalidation--sometimes still do. I think my misery focus may, at times, have been an attempt to convince myself that, yes, I really was sick.

At some point, perhaps as a result of DBT training, I realized focusing on my pain wasn't going to help me heal. Perhaps it happened when I stopped caring who believed and who didn't, although that's still only the case on my best days. Or maybe it was because I had finally surrounded myself with a stable, supportive, and caring treatment team who validated my experience. Validation (and hotdish) is something people with cancer, MS, or heart disease get almost immediately, whereas it took me 4 years to get a nonjudgmental, professional team in place. Their validation and support freed me to focus on recovery and healing. (I still haven't received a hotdish, though.)

By removing the need to convince them of my pain, my treatment team allowed me to focus on therapeutic action instead. Perhaps if we know the people around us believe we are "really sick," getting well is not so daunting. I mean, if we are stuck in the trap of proving our misery, aren't we less likely to take actions which may lessen our misery? Are we scared that if we improve before anyone believes we were sick, we might hear, "I told you so," from the non-supportive, non-believers? I don't know. It's just a spontaneous thought I had, and I realize it may be a prickly thought for some readers.

I assure you, though, I am NOT saying that we don't get well on purpose! NOT AT ALL! For ME, just ME, it makes sense that I began taking more positive action once I had the support and validation of the people around me. And recovery requires action.

Without action I cannot maintain my health today. My depression is not gone, but it is certainly more stable than in years past. However, if I stop taking the actions--if I stop taking my meds, getting exercise and sleep, eating well, and finding meaning in every day--if I stop doing those therapeutic things, I am sure my tenuous grasp on stability will fall quickly away. Recovery, for me, requires action.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Perceived-Slight Dilemma

1. detected by instinct or inference rather than by recognized perceptual cues; "the felt presence of an intruder"; "a sensed presence in the room raised goosebumps on her arms"; "a perceived threat" [syn: sensed]
2. detected by means of the senses; "a perceived difference in temperature"

verb (used with object)
1. to treat as of little importance.
2. to treat (someone) with indifference; ignore, esp. pointedly or contemptuously; snub: to be slighted by society.
3. an act or instance of slighting indifference or treatment: Slights marred his work.
4. a pointed and contemptuous discourtesy; affront: She considered not being invited an unforgivable slight.


Alcoholics suffer from problems of perception. People with mental illness and personality disorders suffer from problems of perception. Since I used to fit into all of the above categories, you might guess that I've had a history of suffering from perceptual inaccuracies and blatant mistakes.

Historically, when I based my feelings, judgments or opinions on my perceptions, it was akin to walking through a field of land-mines. My past perceptions usually tripped me up and exploded in my face, resulting in serious injury to myself and others. Fortunately, I learned from these painful, bloody experiences, which is why I need your help today.

I perceive a slight from a person within an organization I care deeply about. This person is newer to the organization than I am. She is the part-time, paid coordinator who assigns volunteer speakers for community mental health education and awareness. I have been voluntarily speaking and training new public speakers for this organization for years. Prior to this person coming on board, I was one of the most frequent speakers, speaking several times per month to schools, churches, civic groups, live radio programs, and even the television news. I cherish the role, as I am passionate about educating the public about depression and mental illness.

After being stigmatized, fired, and losing everything because of my depression, I made the decision to use my experiences to enlighten others. I figured if even one person changed their perspective, developed a better understanding of a sick relative, or decided to seek help as a result of something I said, anything I had gone through would pale in comparison. Speaking gives some meaning to this otherwise meaningless illness. It's the same reason I write this blog. I enjoy it. I value the opportunity to squash the stigma and to hopefully effect change. It gives me a sense of purpose.

The opportunity to speak, however, seems to have been taken away. Over the past year, I've gone from speaking, or being asked to speak, several times per month to once or twice this entire year. I learned, after the fact, from one teacher that she had requested me for three speaking dates, but I was only offered the choice of one of the three dates. That was a couple months ago. I let it go. But since then, I have paid more attention to the number of opportunities I've been offered.

I assumed I wasn't being called because the organization wasn't getting as many speaking requests. I also knew that we'd made a big push to add speakers to our speaker's bureau, so perhaps that was the reason for fewer calls. For awhile, I was one of only a very few volunteers, but now we have several trained speakers. Unfortunately, today it became clear that I've been overly optimistic, stupid or naive. The organization has had many speaking requests, and other speakers have been called and scheduled multiple times. I've just not been called. That is my perception.

This sucks! I'm angry. I'm resentful. I'm confused. I perceive a slight. I've heard gossip from other volunteers about this person which, if true, would explain her actions. I don't like gossip, and while it's nice to have senior members of the organization reassure me, it doesn't help me fulfill my desire to educate people. I'm being kept from doing something I love. I'm being kept from assisting an organization I value. I'm being left outside the loop of an organization in which I've invested a lot of time and energy. And why? Not because of anything I've done according to those who've tried to reassure me. Just because.

And this is where I need help. I can act on my perception, which may or may not be true, and go after this person with both barrels. That's what I would have done in the past--not very effective. Part of me wants to say, "Fuck it! Fuck them!" I want to leave them in anger without saying a thing. Of course, that also solves nothing. In fact, my situation would be worse. I'd be a non-speaker full of resentment! That sounds like a prescription for mental health disaster. Not a great option...

Speaking to this person would be a better option. I need to say something, but I don't want to say anything! I don't want to deal with this BS! One of the benefits of volunteering, versus a paid position, is staying out of the office BS! That's how it's supposed to work, anyway. I resent having to deal with this crap! I'm pissed I have to deal with another person's (perceived) character flaws! Lord knows, I've got enough of my own to deal with! I didn't do anything to this person, but I'm apparently not on her Christmas list. That's her shit! Why should I have to deal with it? But I do...if I want to speak publicly again, I must deal with it.

There's another shitty thing about being forced to deal with this. Just because I deal with it maturely (hopefully) doesn't mean I'll get the outcome I desire. I can control my response to the perceived slight, but I can't control how my response will be received. This fact makes it even more difficult for me to approach this person. I don't want to expose myself, make myself vulnerable to this person, and then have nothing change. I guess this is the risk I have to take if I want any chance to continue speaking.

This sucks. I don't like it. I feel resentful. And I feel cornered--forced to act, despite the fact I didn't participate in creating the situation.
What would you do?

What would you do?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Moose twins playing in the sprinkler!

This is so beautiful, it brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. Youthful exuberance under a mother's watchful eye... A reminder that we are but visitors on this planet.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The big deal about going out.

I just returned from a girls' night out at a co-worker's house. Pizza and a movie and a bit of gossip, that's all. Why then was this such a big deal?

Kudos to US Bank

Related Post: The Bank stole my money.

Update: Kudos to US Bank! After a few more e-mails and a couple more phone calls, I spoke with Kathleen at the Stillwater US Bank location where my $50.00 went "missing." She confirmed a few pieces of information so she could "review the tapes," but then immediately asked for my address so she could send me a $50.00 check. They are going to refund my money. She obviously hadn't yet "reviewed the tapes," but she was going to refund my $50.00 anyway. Cool. It almost seemed too easy after all the previous hoop jumping. Perhaps she had already reviewed the receipts and found the teller was at least $50.00 over. I don't know. She didn't say if she found an error or not. I don't really care. She did the right thing. I am a happy customer who will continue to bank with them. Maybe that actually did matter for something. Thanks, Kathleen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Struggling with the chicken and the egg.

Only a depression blog could follow a post labeled "Laughing..." with a post labeled "Struggling..." The essence of depression in two sequential posts. Gotta love it.

I am struggling.

I am struggling with my thinking. I am struggling with my attitude. I'm tired of this illness. I'm tired of being sick. I'm tired of taking a handful of meds morning and night just to function like a semi-normal person. I think about quitting them. I forget them--I never forget my meds. But I have forgotten them lately. Is that because I'm feeling pissed off about needing them, or is that because my concentration and memory are worse--two sure signs of impending doom. Am I struggling with my illness or with me?

Is my depression getting worse, and therefore I am struggling with my thinking and my attitude? OR, is my screwy thinking and negative attitude bringing on the vacuum of depression? Who the hell knows! Who the hell cares! Chicken or egg... Egg or chicken...

This constant conundrum is yet another reason depression is so personal and confusing. If a brain tumor was getting larger, I would not be contemplating these questions! Friends and family would not contemplate such questions, and doctors would not probe for some triggering event. Everyone would understand that sometimes a tumor just grows. Sometimes depression just grows, too, but that's a lot harder to wrap one's mind around. Even I, the mentally ill person, often find that fact unacceptable. There must be a reason...

Around and around I go. My thinking is disjointed, distracted, and punishing. I feel impatient, ambivalent, and angry. My temper is short; my serenity shorter. Am I diving into the funnel of depression, or am I self-destructing of my own free, stubborn will? Does it matter? Around and around I go. Chicken or egg... Egg or chicken...

Fuck it! Fry the chicken and scramble the egg!
Resolving nothing, I still feel like crap.
I'm still struggling.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Laughing along with Car Talk

Living with depression requires an enormous amount of patience, resilience, and coping. One of the my favorite coping skills is humor. When I lose my sense of humor or my sarcasm I know I am in a very deep hole. It's not pretty. One of my favorite sources for humor, especially on weekends, is National Public Radio. Living in Minnesota, I am quite fortunate to have a thriving public radio network, and I spend most of my weekend alone time listening to my local MPR station.
Today I heard one of the funniest segments I have ever heard on one of my favorite NPR programs, Car Talk. If you are in need of a really good laugh, spend the next 10 minutes listening to this! You won't regret it for a second! Enjoy!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The bank stole my money!

I went into the US Bank in Stillwater, MN to pay my mortgage a few days ago. I had some cash and a couple checks to put toward the mortgage (never got to the bank to deposit them, so thought I'd just skip the step and put them toward the mortgage directly). I planned to pay the remainder of the mortgage, minus the cash and checks, with a personal check.

Unfortunately, I entered the bank right after my hip injection last week. I apparently was a bit stressed and preoccupied after the painful injection, because I missed a huge error made by the teller. She failed to credit me for all of the cash and checks! In fact, she shorted me $50.00! Fifty bucks! Maybe that's not a lot of money to some of you, but it's a pretty big deal to me! To make matters worse, I didn't notice the error for two days. According to my receipt, my mortgage was credited for the proper amount, so either the teller slipped $50 into her pocket, threw one of my checks in the trash, or just screwed up!

I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt, so I'm assuming it was an innocent mistake, and if it was it should be simple to fix, right? The bank teller's drawer would have been $50.00 over her receipts at the end of the day. One phone call from a customer stating they were shorted $50.00 on that particular day...I mean, put two and two together! Teller drawer +50 bucks, customer -50 bucks equals a pretty simple fix. Makes sense, doesn't it? I thought so, too. The thing is, getting someone to even look into it seems to be a major problem for US Bank.

Once I noticed the error, I did an internet search to locate the bank branch and phone number. It was too early to phone, so I wrote an e-mail to US Bank via their customer service website. The website promised a response within 24 hours. They don't promise a resolution, just a "response." I followed my e-mail with a phone call directly to the bank branch as soon as they opened.

The female employee who took my call told me she would get back to me "in a few minutes." That was nearly 48 hours ago. In the meantime, US Bank responded to my e-mail and said they were referring me to the mortgage division. "Oh boy," I thought, "here we go."

I responded to US Bank's e-mail, re-explaining the situation and stating that I thought the bank branch likely had the extra $50.00. I didn't believe the mortgage division would be able to assist me. Remember, I hadn't actually overpaid my mortgage. My mortgage was credited with the correct amount, even though I had actually given the teller $50.00 more than I owed on my mortgage.

Tonight, the saga continued. I received another e-mail response from US Bank stating that "because I don't have an account number they can refer to" I need to contact the bank branch directly. I'm not sure what this e-mail means. I don't have a checking or savings account at US Bank, just my mortgage. But why does a customer need an account number for US Bank to research that customer losing $50.00?!

So I just finished my third e-mail back to US Bank. I informed them I had already contacted the local bank branch without resolution and asked them to please stop passing me around! As far as I can tell, nobody has actually lifted a finger to look into the matter! Yup, US Bank has responded, but every response has directed me to seek assistance elsewhere! Nice.

This seems to be a typical customer service tactic. Has anyone else noticed this? It seems most customer service departments play a war of attrition with their complainants. Customer service passes the "victim" around until the customer's complaint, problem or loss becomes less bothersome than the process of remediation!

"I'm sorry. I can't help you. Go repeat your story to another department." I'm sorry. I can't help you. Go repeat your story to another person." "I'm sorry. I can't help you. Go repeat your story to another office."
And on, and on, and on...until the customer is so fed up, frustrated and exasperated, they can't stand it anymore! The customer eventually gives up. Problem solved through attrition. The last man standing, customer service, won, but no one ever addressed the original issue.

I fear I am now engaged in this attrition war with US Bank! The only action which seems to have been taken has been to refer me elsewhere. What a waste of time and energy! Why can't someone just look into the problem? Look at the receipts. Look at the video tapes--banks have video surveillance, right? This could have been resolved with one simple phone call if someone actually took some action!! But, no, that would make too much sense. That would mean someone might have to admit there was a mistake! What ever happened to customer service? I don't think I like what's become of it.

Soon, I'll need to decide whether to keep pursuing this or let it go. I guess I'm about to find out how much sanity I'm willing to sacrifice for 50 bucks.
Wish me luck.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Alcohol + Family = CRAZY

Despite my intimate knowledge of alcohol, I avoided the great misfortune of growing up around alcoholism or addiction. Over the last couple weeks, I have become more and more grateful for this. Over the last couple weeks, I have gained more intimate knowledge about alcoholism and the family than I ever wanted to know! And I still don't get it... Do you?

Read on...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why run?

Sometimes people ask me, "Why do you run?" From now on, I'm just going to pull out these pictures and say:


Pruning The Shrub

By overwhelming margins, both the US House and Senate voted to override President Bushy's veto of the Medicare Reform Bill (HR 6331). The Shrub suffered perhaps his most significant pruning yet on this one, as seniors, doctors and mental health advocates apparently flooded congress members' offices with mail and voice messages urging the override. I was a bit concerned after The Shrub followed through with his veto threat. You just never know what's going to happen in DC, you know what I mean?

Thankfully, the concern was unwarranted. I am extremely relieved this bill is now law! Doctors will be paid. Private insurers, who have been overpaid for years, will have their payments lowered. And most importantly, people like me with mental illness will now be covered equally! We won't be totally "phased in" to equal insurance coverage until 2014, but at least the long-standing, discriminatory 50% coverage will finally become extinct. Thank God!

In fact, I'm so happy--Let's sing!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Verdict Is...

wait and see.
doc injected my iliopsoas tendon, which is the tendon that attaches the hip flexing muscles to the bone. in other words, when you flex your hip (i.e. lift your knee toward the ceiling or kick a ball), the iliopsoas tendon shortens.
we decided to inject the tendon to rule out something simple, like tendinitis, before we look for the more serious recurring labral tear.
the injection was quite uncomfortable.
I'll spare you too many details, but suffice it to say it takes a fair amount of needle pressure to break through the anterior hip and into the meat of the tendon.
the injection contains a steroid plus a novacaine-like med to desensitize the injected area.
the fun part--sarcastic--was that my quads went numb, too, as the femoral nerve runs just below the tendon, so I silly-walked for a few hours.
now it is wait and see time.
if my pain decreases after this injection, it may mean this is only tendinitis!
if the pain stays the same or worsens, well that means I failed the test, and it is likely a labral tear.
I am going back in two weeks.
I can begin running again in 2-3 days to test it out.
doc was a bit vague about the options available if my labrum is re-torn. he mentioned surgery, but that was before I reminded him I had already had two previous procedures.
he had apparently forgotten the first one.
he didn't mention surgery after that, but I think he went into the wait-and-see-what-happens-after-the-injection mode.
so, I'll wait and see, too.
and pray.

Monday, July 14, 2008

random thoughts about a hip...

I have my appointment with my orthopedic surgeon tomorrow to see what's going on with my hip. I have not run since the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon. In Colorado, I was able to climb, and raft, and swim, but every attempt at running felt wrong. I had hip pain with every step.

My therapist asked me today if I was anxious about the appointment. The question caught me off guard. It was a totally reasonable question, but in that moment I realized I was actually looking forward to the appointment. I find it much more stressful NOT knowing what's causing my pain. In fact, I didn't say this, but I realized I am much more likely to go for a run after my diagnosis--regardless of what the diagnosis is! Yup, sounds screwed up and backwards, but hear me out.

Since I don't know what's going on now, it's pretty easy NOT to run. I don't know what I might be damaging which otherwise could possibly be saved. I also don't know if the damage is already done. So why would I continue running on a sore hip?

BUT once I know exactly what's happening in that joint, I can make an informed decision about my body. I can protect my hip from further damage if the doc tells me doing so would prolong my running career. Likewise, I can be belligerent and say "Screw it," if the doc tells me the damage is done and my options are limited. I am hoping for the first scenario but expecting the second.

So it makes sense that my therapist asked the question. Part of me thinks, "Why the hell aren't I anxious?" There's a lot riding on this appointment. If my labrum has torn again, I don't believe a third surgery will be a plausible option. That scenario plays out with my running ending and a hip replacement sooner rather than later. I am hoping my labrum is not torn, maybe just irritated, which pushes back a hip replacement while my running continues. The worst possible scenario would be to come out of tomorrow's appointment and still not know; to return home without an answer would be the worst case scenario! I guess I am anxious about that possibility!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Black and White Thinking

One of the typical traits of Borderline Personality Disorder and Alcoholism is something called black and white thinking. For this reason, I have been planning a post on this subject for quite some time, but it wasn't until my trip to Colorado that posting about it became more imperative. While I was in Colorado I realized that many of us, even "normies," frequently use black and white thinking as a way to rationalize our decisions, improve our self-confidence, or reaffirm our position in life. And you know what? Black and white thinking can be quite annoying when voiced out loud!

Black and white thinking is exactly what it sounds like. Something is either one extreme or another; there is no middle ground. During my vacation I became irritable when my fellow Minnesotans bad-mouthed Minnesota at every turn. As a native Minnesotan, I take pride in my state. But once we hit Colorado, in every comparison, Minnesota lost in a landslide. For example, Colorado weather was perfect (all good) while Minnesota weather sucked (all bad). Colorado towns had charm and character while Minnesota towns had none. Colorado residents were terrific while Minnesotans were duds. Colorado drivers knew how to drive while Minnesotans ALL drove in the left lane ALL the time. Black or white; there was no middle, but the truth actually lies smack in the middle of each of those statements. (I actually saw some Colorado drivers in the left lane, too!)

There are not too many things on this planet which are 100% good or 100% bad. We live in a world of gray, but gray is a diffuse, ill-defined color. When we make a decision or want to reaffirm a long-standing position (like where we live or what party we vote for), it is simple and reassuring to define our other options as completely negative.

For people with BPD and alcoholism, this thought pattern is extremely rigid and pervades every aspect of daily life. As a result, we (I once suffered from both of these illnesses) have trouble tolerating any challenge to our concrete beliefs. We hold these beliefs until our knuckles bleed; our terror is no less than that of the desperate man suspended by an unraveling rope inches above the deadly, raging river. The gray, murky water is much scarier than the concreteness of either shore. Our terror presents, however, as anger, irritability, or judgementalness, and we may be quite difficult people with whom to share space.

Having recovered from BPD and active alcoholism, I have learned the skill of tolerating gray matter. Actually, I've come to love the gray matter! The gray matter lets me off the hook! I don't have to know everything! How cool is that?! I don't have to know what is best or what is worst. I don't have to be an expert on anything anymore! It is a relief--a RELIEF--to acknowledge the positives and negatives of EVERYTHING!

Yes, northern Minnesota is very cold in the winter, but there are a ton of things to do and a ton of like-minded people to play with! Yes, northern Colorado has beautiful mountains and cacti, unlike Minnesota, but does that make Minnesota bad? Does the fact that Minnesota has billions of gallons of fresh lake water make Colorado horrible? No. It just is. Those things just are. They each have positive and negative attributes. Isn't that neat?

Can you see how embracing the gray matter avoids anger, judgement and argument? What is there to argue about? If we are discussing what IS, rather than qualifying it as all good or all bad, there is nothing to debate. Life is suddenly simple. Simple! It is so cool! I only wish I had learned this years ago.

So, if you're interested, practice your gray thinking today. Embrace the middle ground. When you find yourself noticing something, do you immediately place judgement on it? Are you immediately comparing it to something else? If so, why? Is it something on which you need a strong opinion, or can it just be? Next time you notice it, practice just noticing it. What is it? What color is it? What is it's function? How is it related to your life? Can you like parts of it and not others? Try it. It may be one of the most freeing skills you ever learn. Practice it daily, and let me know how it goes. Good luck!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Senate finally gets it right!

Congratulations to every reader with mental illness! By the year 2014, only SIX years from now, we will be officially sick! That is, those of us unfortunate enough to rely on Medicare to pay our medical bills will finally be treated equally by our own government. A mental illness will be treated as an illness, not as moodiness, dysfunction, or my personal favorite, laziness.

Yesterday, the Senate stepped up and passed the Medicare Reform Bill (HR 6331) which I ranted about last week. This means rather than receiving 50% coverage for our care, mentally ill Medicare beneficiaries will gradually be bumped up to the customary 80% coverage which our diagnosed-with-anything-but-mental-illness counterparts currently receive. The Shrub promises a veto, but it appears the Senate even has that one covered. They overwhelmingly approved the bill, 69-30. Way to go, guys and gals! Maybe there is room for common sense among our policy-makers after all. Thanks for contributing to this historic moment in the treatment of our mentally ill citizens.


Margin Sufficient to Override Expected Presidential Veto
July 10, 2008

By a vote of 69-30, the Senate on July 9 passed a critical package of Medicare beneficiary improvements. In addition to preventing a cut in fees to physicians, the legislation (HR 6331) also makes improvement to the Part D drug benefit and establishes parity for cost sharing for outpatient mental health services. Yesterday’s vote was on motion to cut off debate; the Senate later cleared the package by voice vote. The margin was sufficient to override an expected presidential veto – the House passed the legislation on June 24 by a 355-59 margin, more than enough to override a veto.
A Major Victory for Medicare Beneficiaries Living With Mental IllnessThe Senate vote was a tremendous win for long sought improvement to the Medicare program. The voice of NAMI advocates from a across the country made a huge difference in securing additional support in the Senate. In addition, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) was present for the vote, despite his ongoing treatment for brain cancer.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Puck--then and now.

I finally have the pictures of Puck's surgery available for viewing. If you are squeamish, don't look! Although there is really no blood because the vet used a laser for the incisions. I've followed the surgical pics with the pics I took today of Puck walking on the underwater treadmill at the doggy rehab center. He is about six weeks post-op (surgery date 5/29/08) and doing very well. Grandpa and Grandma took especially good care of him while I was away, walking him briefly 3-5 times per day. He is even gaining back some leg muscle finally! We still have a long way to go before he can run with me again, but I'm encouraged by his progress. Thanks again for your support. Hope you find the pictures interesting!

Opening up Puck's knee reveals a smooth, shiny femur. This is a good thing! No visible arthritis.

Hard to see here, but this is what remains of Puck's shredded ACL ligament.

The vet is drilling a hole in the bone below Puck's kneecap. This hole is for one end of the new ACL ligament, which is actually like 80-pound-test fishing line.

A picture of the fishing line as it is being threaded through Puck's knee.

Puck's new, artificial ACL. The metal clips secure the ends of the fishing line to each other. Puck's repaired ACL is now able to withstand more force than the original, and more than the original on the other leg--therefore, no more ball for Puck. Boo, hoo...

Puck, post-op day one. Looks like someone stole his pants, doesn't it? I shouldn't make fun. He was quite pathetic and in a lot of pain this day.

Into the doggy treadmill container--He's still not too sure about this...

As the water fills around him, Katie, PT-Extraordinaire, starts the treadmill. This is usually when Puck tries to leap out of the unit. I didn't capture a picture of that! It's a bit embarrassing...

Puck on the move.

Isn't he handsome? Even underwater...
I love my boy!

Home again--drama again.

I am finally back from my western journey. It was beautiful, refreshing, fun and EXHAUSTING! I think I need a vacation! There were many, many people twittering about the property which led to more activity than I had planned upon. I was on vacation, and there were several days when I didn't have time to NAP! There's something terribly wrong with that! Returned home via a 16 hour road trip through bad weather and pitch black roads--a bit stressful. We arrived in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, i.e. the middle of the night. I have yet to unpack. Recovery may take a few more days...

Unfortunately, I returned to a huge drama at the home of the teenager I mentor. HUGE DRAMA! The environment in which he lives is so toxic it would almost be appropriate to don a hazardous materials suit before entering their home. He is not an innocent victim in this one. He contributed to the toxicity, but the alcoholic family dynamics and mother's BP illness keep the toxic fumes vehemently swirling long after they otherwise would have settled.

Within five minutes of entering the house today, naked without my haz-mat suit, I was sucked into the fray. Realizing the hopeless course I was on, I extricated myself as cleanly as possible, but the toxicity and stress remained. I had the skill to verbally disengage and the option to leave. The teen I work with doesn't have those luxuries. I care about this kid, and I am afraid this environment will eventually knock him flat, or worse... And the stress isn't good for me, either.

Despite the drama to which I returned, it is nice to sleep in my own bed again. It's nice to have a flush toilet, running water, and the company of Puck, again. The routine of living may take a while to get re-established, and I do miss gazing at snowy-peaks while sipping my morning coffee. But I'll manage.

This trip caused me to deeply ponder many things. I have a feeling you'll be a party to my pondering if you stick around over the next couple weeks. Until then...

Friday, July 4, 2008

Serenity happened today!

I climbed today. Alone. Higher than a couple days ago. Without a guiding path. Without a rope. Up a seemingly impossible mountain of rocks. And a funny thing happened at the top. (read more)

down the river we gooooooo...

River rafting! Who knew it could be this much fun! Wow! I knew this was something I wanted to do, but it wasn't really high on the bucket list. It was one of those it would be cool if it happened, but I wasn't planning to go out of my way to make it happen items. Two hours later, I was screaming, "Let's do it again!!"

The rivers in Northern Colorado are at their highest level, and therefore running faster than they have in years! We had to duck our heads to safely get under bridges! It was incredible; a total adrenaline rush. I was almost bounced out of the raft once, and I was bounced on to the floor of it twice. Like I said, "Wow!"

I was reading about mindfulness earlier. If you need help focusing, meditating, or remaining mindful, I highly recommend a "scenic" ride down your nearest high water, fast flowing, roiling river. I think you will find, as I did, little time to focus on anything other than the whitewater in your face.

Of course you are free to seek a second opinion.

See you downstream.